What can career-changers offer early talent programmes?

Jan 18, 2024 | Home Featured, Opinion, Sector & policy

Career-changers are helping solve challenges in early talent recruitment. Rob Fryer at Now Teach presents the business case and advice.

There is a silent revolution taking place across the country. You may not have noticed it or, if you have, you may not have yet considered how it may affect your early talent programmes.

As organisations compete for an ever-shrinking skilled talent pool, there is an increasingly substantial number of people left on the periphery, and many of them have grey hairs.

A career-changer

Five years ago, Lucy Kellaway took the plunge; quitting her job as a journalist at the Financial Times aged 57 and training as a secondary school teacher.

Lucy may not have been the first person to change career at a later stage, but she is certainly among the highest profile. More important, she recognised that her decision was not just a personal one but reflective of wider social trends.

As a result, she set up the charity Now Teach to support people like her. And she was right – there is an ever-increasing pool of highly skilled candidates that are changing career.

The teaching profession very nearly lost Lucy at the outset as she was poo-poohed by the teachers she talked to. Changing career is often seen as an oddity that hiring managers either do not understand or reject through ageist assumptions. I wonder how many great candidates you are missing out on.

The business case

Now Teach was founded to inspire, guide, and support experienced and talented people like Lucy who are looking for a new career. The business case is compelling:
Supply – birth rates are falling, and people are living longer. Potential recruits are not necessarily sitting in lecture theatres.
Skills shortages – resilience, time management and self-awareness are commonly noted as skills gaps for school leavers and graduates. Coincidently, more experienced professionals have this in abundance.
Societal shift – did you hear about the graduate that qualified as an accountant and then spent her entire career as an accountant before retiring? Me neither. There has been a clear shift of employees switching career, engaging in flexible working practices, and translating their skills into different occupations.

There are of course barriers to changing careers. Many of the candidates we speak to have concerns about leaving a well-paid job for a pay cut in the classroom.

It will not be for everyone. But I strongly believe it can be and should be for more people, and of course teaching is not the only career that people can transition into.

What does this mean for early talent programmes?

I have spent my career recruiting from schools and universities or working in educational institutions to help students get jobs on leaving. What I have learnt is that fundamentally, this is all about transitions. A transition from one state to another.

Now imagine if your potential recruit is not in a school or university, but in an office, in a different organisation or another department within your own organisation.

This is what we do at Now Teach. We are increasingly working with organisations that would like to restructure their organisation and offboard staff into another career. Perhaps they are considering secondments or dual careers as part of a retention strategy. Or perhaps they have a corporate social responsibility agenda to deliver on. In doing so we are placing experienced professionals into the classroom to inspire future talent.

I am sure your programmes are designed to provide learning, training and development just like Now Teach’s. You will be surprised at the amount of work you do already that is applicable to a career change audience. You won’t need a total overhaul to cater for this group, although you will need to adjust your positioning.

How to start bringing career-changes into early talent programmes

What is your offer?

Consider the motivations and needs of your audience. We can broadly place motivations to go into teaching into several categories: the benefits of an enhanced pension and six-weeks of summer holidays, a passion for a subject and helping young people can all be attractive to a career changer.

Consider language

The labels of school leaver, graduate, early talent schemes are off putting to a more experienced candidates, who nevertheless wants to try their hand in a different sector.

What are your routes to market?

The most obvious is your current workforce. How easy is internal mobility? Do you have the support systems to encourage and help employees find their fit? Surely it is easier to retain than recruit? Perhaps careers coaches, such as those we employ at Now Teach, can help candidate and department find each other?

Partner with likeminded organisations

There are some wonderful organisations working in this space, promoting, and advocating for the impact older workers can have, if we take the time to unlock their potential. Pick up best practice and learn from others.

You have the content already

Organisations such as yours have developed market-leading selection, induction and development programmes, catering for candidates of all demographics. Why can’t they be used for career changers? Much like a graduate, this is a transition, so buddies, role models and networks of people with similar lived experience can support.

Will you be seeing large groups of 47-year-olds (the average age of a Now Teacher) training on your programmes over the next few years? Maybe not. I am sure that as people live longer, they will work longer, and given the challenge around finding skilled candidates, can we afford to overlook this group?

Read more content like Rob’s from the ISE HE Conference.

You may also be interested in…

Why early talent recruiters are set to become total talent recruiters

Early careers strategy must be more than school leavers and graduates

How an Age Community is bridging multigenerational gaps at Novuna

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